I am glad the Court of Appeal has overturned the No Confidence Vote. Not because I am rooting for the Coalition, but because the whole thing had become a farce. And despite our immense failings as a political community, we deserve better.
Political farce is a constant in politics, but when it is allowed to continue indefinitely, it becomes the norm. It was truly painful to endure the daily doses of pontificating that passed for constitutional debate. For the last three months we witnessed one party, which has generally shown little respect for constitutional correctness, hiding behind the constitution to try to depose its political adversary, and the latter in turn hiding behind GECOM as it held on to power.
The PPP had a right to ask the court to settle differences in the interpretation of the constitution, but it was clear to me that they were going beyond that—they were asking the court to join them in removing the Coalition from power. I always thought that the No Confidence Vote (NCV) was validly passed. Until credible evidence is produced to show that Mr. Charrandass Persaud accepted a bribe in exchange for his vote, I will respect his decision to break with his coalition. In politics as in life, decisive actions are consequences of more than often meets the eye.
Despite my belief that bribe or no bribe, Persaud’s decision reflected a deep and deliberate failure of the Coalition’s leadership to creatively manage the partnership, I supported its right to review the NCV in the courts. I, however, felt that such a review should not automatically eliminate the consequences of the outcome of the NCV.
It meant that there ought to have been a political initiative that balanced the consequences of the vote and the right to review it. It was incumbent on the leaderships to find a political solution to the political crisis brought on by the success of the vote and the inevitable review of it.
But the PPP along with some of our political and legal scholars and commentators chose to ignore or downplay one element in the scenario—the right to review. They instead treated the NCV as being beyond challenge or review. In that regard, they manufactured a “constitutional crisis” and used the constitution in an abstract manner to insist that the government must resign, and elections be held by March 22.
That one-sided approach invariably engendered an equally one-sided response from the other side, which all but ignored the consequences of the NCV and focused on the right to judicial review. The farce that I referred to above was now in full swing.
When the Chief Justice gave her ruling which favoured the PPP, the latter thought it was all over. But they forgot one thing—the other side still occupied the seat of power. And that side was headed by a party which understood the imperatives and logic of power and was well practiced in wielding it. To expect the PNC to give up power without a fight is wishful thinking.
But even a party that is well versed in the exercise of naked power needed a cover. They found it in the highly and totally partisan GECOM. This is an institution that is independent in theory and does act independently when the stakes are low, but when the stakes are high, it resorts to its partisan self.
So, the Coalition hid behind a willing GECOM majority as it held on to power pending the decision by the Court of Appeal. In the meantime, GECOM’s majority and minority carried on their own sideshow and the PPP used its ample media space to wage a propaganda war that had the effect of making the country nervous.
The PPP took to the streets and the top brass of the Police Force issued the inevitable threat to put down the assumed insurrection if it materialized. The pretense of democratic order was beginning to show itself. Jagdeo had blood in his eyes and seemed willing to push the limits of the right to protest. This is where the farce threatened to explode into something else. The Carter Center and the other foreign interests were trying to get the two sides to agree to something.
So, the ruling of the Court of Appeal has put a break on the farce—hopefully. A rescue act of sorts. The PPP is appealing the ruling to the CCJ. Hopefully the mantra of “constitutional crisis” will go away and the GECOM “house to house registration” chorus would retreat to where it belongs. I don’t mean to make light of the discourses on the constitutional consequences of the NCV or the debates on the work of GECOM; my issue has to do with what they were used for.
So, here we are. The government would continue being the government. Its loyal supporters would gloat and hate Jagdeo more. The PPP would turn its attention to stopping GECOM from preparing to “rig” the election and its supporters would hate the Justices on the Court of Appeal.
The ethnic symbolism of the breakdown of the vote at the Court of Appeal would be whispered about, but few would have the courage to say it out aloud.
If the CCJ overturns the ruling by the Court of Appeal, the “constitutional crisis” would return and GECOM would hit the spotlight again. In the end, the political crisis would continue – it never goes away. But for now, I say, give thanks to the majority on the Appeal Court.
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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